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ARCH and the NFA make the case for council housing 13/02/2020 Labelled as Scrutiny, Legislation, Regulation

Ahead of the Budget Statement on 11 March 2020, ARCH and the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) have come together to make the case for council housing in a joint budget submission to the Treasury.


Our joint Budget submission builds on our 2019 Spending Review Submission "Social Housing We Can All Be Proud Of" and focusses on the key changes in the policy environment since the election of the new Conservative Government, and their implications, and on new evidence relevant to our case for investment in a new generation of council housing.


In the last decade, councils and ALMOs have started to build on a small but growing scale. We have evidence that this trend has accelerated since the abolition of Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing caps in October 2018. In January this year, we published the results of a joint CIH-NFA-ARCH survey looking at the impact of the lifting of HRA borrowing caps and reviewing the building plans of a sample of 22 stock-owning councils including 5 London boroughs, large cities in the Midlands and North, and several medium and smaller authorities.  We argue both in that report and in our Budget submission that the Government can and should do more to support the need for more social housing.


Alongside the Queen's Speech, the new Government made a commitment to build" hundreds of thousands of new homes for a range of people in different places", a commitment we welcome and support.


The economic case for investment in social housing is strong and was set out in detail in our Spending Review submission. In our Budget submission we supplement that case by arguing that an increased supply of council housing is essential to the achievement of the new Government's aim to end rough sleeping within five years and to eliminate the use of often unsatisfactory privately-provided temporary accommodation for households accepted as homeless by local authorities, currently costing £1.1 billion a year.


The Government has also promised to tackle the issue of social care and in our Budget submission we argue that an increased supply of suitable council housing would also help reduce pressure on NHS beds and expenditure by providing for patients who no longer need hospital care but cannot be discharged to inadequate or insanitary housing. Provision of supported housing and extra-care housing schemes would also reduce the pressure on social care budgets.


We also welcome the Government's confirmation, at the time of the Queen's Speech, that it will publish a White Paper on Social Housing, taking forward the issues covered in the Green Paper "A New Deal for Social Housing", published in Summer 2018. The Queen's Speech also announced two Bills on Fire Safety and Building Safety, to take forward the conclusions of the Hackett Review and the outcome of Phase 1 of the Grenfell Inquiry. There is not yet sufficient detail on any of these to attempt a costing of their implications for local authority housing, other than to note that they are likely to be very substantial. In our Budget Submission, we argue that it is unlikely that local authorities will be able to resource the necessary investment and management reforms within current business plan envelopes without compromising other essential investment. 


In May 2019, an environment and climate emergency was declared by Parliament, supported by MPs from all major parties. Many local authorities have followed this lead by declaring their own climate emergencies and Government have set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at a national level. ARCH and the NFA agree that, as a route to help achieve this target, the Decent Homes Standard needs to be updated and extended, among other things to include improved requirements for energy efficiency.


We welcome the ambition of the zero-carbon emissions target and believe that social housing providers are well-placed to help achieve significant carbon emission reductions through wholesale retrofitting of existing social housing and ensuring new homes are built to the highest standards possible. However, any retrofitting will have significant financial implications and the Government needs to work with local authority landlords to develop appropriate strategies (and funding) to achieve net zero carbon target by 2050.


It is not just housing policy that can help alleviate rough sleeping and homelessness but welfare policies too and the ARCH/NFA Annual Welfare Reform Survey of members demonstrates the impact that the rollout of Universal Credit has had on our members and tenants and we underpin some of the recommendations in that report in our Budget submission.

In summary, the key asks set out in our Budget submission are:


Council House Building     


  • To invest in social rented housing, increase grant levels and the total grant available to build new social rented homes.
  • Continue to support a council housing renaissance allowing local authority control over the self-financing HRA.
  • Reform right to buy to ensure one-for-one replacement and an equitable and sustainable home ownership offer for council tenants into the future.


Building and Fire Safety


  • The Government to work closely with local authorities and ALMOs to establish any costs that may be incurred by changes in building safety legislation and ensure that these are covered by central Government.


Tackling Climate Change


  • Strategies to be developed to help property owners and managers meet the 2050 zero-carbon target, with the provision of seed funding where necessary.
  • Improved energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy to be part of any Decent Homes Standard.
  • Alignment between a new DHS and the Clean Growth Strategy bringing all social homes up to an EPC Band C by 2030.


Improving the welfare system and tackling homelessness


  • Removing the five-week wait for Universal Credit and paying the benefit at the beginning of the claim.
  • Making improvements to the "APA" system.
  • Funding effective on-going support for claimants, including advice on debt management and personal budgeting.
  • Restoring Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile of local rents again to ensure that low income households can access and remain in private rented accommodation where that is suitable. 


Read the ARCH/NFA 2020 Budget submission

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